2009-2010 Cleveland Cavaliers Season Preview
By Ryno of Predictem.com
Last Season: 66-16
Head Coach: Mike Brown
Projected Starting Lineup
PG: Mo Williams 6-1
SG: Daniel Gibson 6-2
SF: LeBron James 6-8
PF: Anderson Varejao 6-11
C: Shaquille O’Neal 7-1
Key Reserves: Zydrunas Ilgauskas 7-3 C, Jamario Moon 6-8 SF, J.J. Hickson 6-9 PF, Leon Powe 6-8 PF, Delonte West 6-3 SG, Anthony Parker 6-6 SG, Danny Green 6-6 SG
The Cavaliers breezed through the regular season with the best record in the NBA and home court advantage throughout the playoffs. Everyone anticipated a LeBron vs. Kobe NBA Finals – except for Dwight Howard. The Magic outplayed the Cavs in the Eastern Conference Finals and eliminated them to advance to the NBA Finals. The Cavs just couldn’t match up with the Magic. Zydrunas Ilgauskas and Andreson Varejao weren’t quick enough or strong enough to shut down Howard. If Ilgauskas was on Howard, Varejao couldn’t guard Rashard Lewis or Hedo Turkoglu. After a dominant season by the Cavs, LeBron has to wait another year for another chance at an NBA title.
Who’s In/Who’s Out
The Cavs didn’t lose any of their key players, but they did lose a few role players – Wally Szczerbiak, Joe Smith, Sasha Pavlovic and Ben Wallace. But by trading Pavlovic and Wallace to the Suns, they acquired Shaquille O’Neal. LeBron hasn’t been able to get the Cavs over the top by himself, so they got Shaq to give LeBron one more chance at a championship before he becomes a free agent in the 2010 offseason. LeBron has never had a post player as dominant as Shaq, so it should take away some double and triple teams from LeBron as defenders will have to pay attention to Shaq as well. The Cavs added three solid role players to the rotation – Jamario Moon, Leon Powe and Anthony Parker. Moon is a high-flying athlete with great length. Powe is a solid power forward who was a key member of the 2008 Celtics championship team. Parker has played the last three seasons with the Raptors and scored in double digits in each of those three seasons. The Cavs also drafted Danny Green in the second round of the NBA Draft. The former North Carolina guard has terrific athleticism and can knock down outside jumpers. Delonte West was recently arrested for carrying three guns on him while riding his motorcycle. It is unknown if that will affect his status for the season.
Mo Williams is the only guard on this team who is guaranteed a lot of playing time. Williams was a capable second option for the Cavs last season, averaging 17.8 points per game. Daniel Gibson, West, Green and Parker could all see significant playing time in the backcourt. Parker and Green give them more size at the 2-guard spot, but Gibson and West are great shooters who have been important parts of what the Cavs have done over the past two years. They often have had defensive problems with two smaller guards on the floor, so adding Parker and Green were important moves.
The Cavs frontcourt contains two future Hall of Famers in LeBron and Shaq. As LeBron scored fewer points and took fewer shots, the Cavs were much improved last season. He attempted two less shots per game, scored almost two less points per game, recorded fewer turnovers, increased his assists, and improved his field goal percentage, 3-point percentage and free throw percentage. That could be attributed somewhat to him finally having a viable second option in Williams. With Shaq there as well, LeBron’s numbers should improve even more this season. After such a successful season by the Cavs but not even getting to the NBA Finals, expect LeBron to play with an extra chip on his shoulder as he tries to win a championship in Cleveland. Shaq isn’t the same player he was a few years ago, but he is still a powerful force who will help the Cavs down low. If Shaq can stay healthy all season long, the Cavs coule be even better than they were last season. Anderson Varejao will be the starting power forward. He is a scrappy player who hustles to get rebounds and loose balls. He doesn’t add a lot on offense, but he is a quality defensive player. Leon Powe could replace Varejao as the starting power forward. Powe is three inches shorter than Varejao, but he would give the team a better offensive option. Hickson gives the team another option at power forward off the bench. Moon could be used to give LeBron a break, or he could play alongside LeBron in a bigger, more athletic lineup. And don’t forget about Ilgauskas. The 7-foot-3 center has been the starter in Cleveland for a while, and now he will be splitting time with Shaq.
The major strengths of this team are LeBron and Shaq. LeBron is arguably the best player in the NBA and he wants to prove that he can win an NBA championship. What he does on a daily basis is just incredible. His strength and athleticism is just jaw-dropping. Shaq isn’t going to win a championship by himself, but he certainly will make it easier for LeBron. LeBron has so many options to pass the ball to when he gets double-teamed. He can pass down low to Shaq or look for many capable shooters on the perimeter. Williams, West, Gibson, Parker and Green can all light it up from beyond the arc. Last season, the Cavs were nearly unbeatable at home. They finished 39-2 in Cleveland, and their only two losses were to the Sixers on the last day of the season and to the Lakers on Christmas. The Cavs were the best defensive team in the NBA last season, having allowed just 91.4 points per game, nearly two points better than the next closest team.
There aren’t many weaknesses on this team. Despite having so many other options, the team still relies greatly on LeBron. If he is out of the game, the team often struggles on offense. Shaq and Ilgauskas are not the youngest, fastest centers in the league, so it will be tough for them to keep up with a running team like the Hawks or Warriors.
Betting Odds and Projections
The Cavs have the second best odds to win the NBA championship on Bodog, trailing only the Lakers. LeBron is very hungry to win the title, so it’s certainly a good move to bet on them this season. The Cavs had the best record in the league last season with 66 wins, and they are definitely improved this year, so winning more than 66 games is realistic. Winning 60 games is pretty much a lock for this team. Last season, they won their division by 25 games and it could be a similar result this season. There are two teams that have eliminated the Cavs from the playoffs the past two seasons and have a chance to do so again this season – the Celtics and Magic. The Cavs have all season long to figure out how to beat those two teams. If they don’t, LeBron may not be in Cleveland after this season.